Writer/Director Issa Lopez Shares How Her Film, Tigers Are Not Afraid, Went From Rejection to Critically Acclaimed

Written by: Kari Lane – May 5th, 2020 10:05pm pst

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PTN The Scare Guy Interview: Issa Lopez

Most people are not fans of rejection, but as an artist, you have to get used to rejection. Filmmakers put their heart and soul into their films and then comes the time to send those ‘babies’ off to film festivals. You wait anxiously. Did they like it? Is your project accepted? What do you do when you find out your film did not make the cut? How do you keep your passion for your craft alive when you keep hearing “no”? 

The Scare Guy team (Ben Kliewer, Kari Lane and Luke Cheeseman) spoke with writer/director, Issa Lopez, about her film Tigers Are Not Afraid on Popcorn Talk. Her film was rejected multiple times and when asked about what her advice is to filmmakers regarding persevering through the rejection, she said, “Well, first of all, it’s pure undiluted stubbornness…” 

She went on to say, “…It is hard when you get one rejection, it’s fine. You know, you go to that place of ‘oh, they didn’t get it’. And the second rejection you go, like, ‘oh yeah, you never  know…they were probably distracted when they were watching it’. Around the fourth or the fifth, or the sixth, you start questioning. The movie certainly, but your ability as a filmmaker and a storyteller. But I knew, because several times in the career of a filmmaker, it will happen, that we will go, ‘you know what, I’m done’. I am not going to make another movie. This is too much on the soul. I seriously considered, seriously considered, becoming a nurse. Going into the nursing school because it is something that makes a difference in the world, particularly now. I had no idea this was coming our way, of course. But then I realized that I would never be able to stop myself from telling stories. So what was the point, and if I was mediocre, that was still the thing that made me happy. So to hell with it, I might as well keep at it. And, um, it turns out it was true, that it would find its audience, and the audience would react powerfully. And here we are.” 

The other major part of being a filmmaker is being flexible. Regardless of how much you prepare, plans can go astray. So what do you do? Sometimes that challenge can change a project in the most serendipitous ways. Issa Lopez revealed that the film originally had nothing to do with tigers and that animal choice came about because of availability. Additionally, a change in shooting locations had a huge impact. 

Lopez explained, “I love that,  if you stand back, even from the script process, and let things happen, if you become more a medium for the story to manifest, and let it happen, and when you are in pre-production, again you have this idea. The climax of the movie takes place in an abandoned spa. And it’s a very haunting place, but in the script, it was an abandoned doll factory…[but] all of the doll factories had disappeared and turned into something else. So we couldn’t find one. So what do you do? You don’t cry and make people make a doll factory where all the money of the production is going to go into. Just step back, and watch and wait. And something will come along the way. And the place we found, it, you know, it just felt wrong…which was right for the movie. (laughs) And we shot there.”

And before you ask, yes, Lopez said the place is haunted. She said the spa “had a very weird vibe”. When inspecting the location for the spa, a room that is pivotal at the end of the film, actually had a large blood stain on the floor. A whole lot of NOPE! It was these changes that helped make the movie what is today.

You can watch the interview with Issa Lopez here:

You can watch Tigers Are Not Afraid on DVD and Blu-ray Steelbook on May 5, or streaming now on SHUDDER.

If you love Issa Lopez, filmmaking advice, and PTN’s The Scare Guy, share this article with a friend.  Tune in daily to Popcorn Talk Network and our sister network AfterbuzzTV for articles, aftershows, and all the latest news on the world of entertainment.

About The Author:

Kari Lane Host – Filmmaker Kari Lane is a Southern California native. Kari enjoys working behind the scenes as well as in front of the camera.

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